An Easter story: “Drive Angry: Shot in 3D”

April 24, 2011

The story of Christ’s death and rebirth are one of the better publicized religious events. I mean, hand it to the Roman Catholic Church, they got the word out. I suppose when you have the son of God, though, the copy pretty much writes itself: “Enjoy living? You should talk to this guy.” Plus his whole story has the ultimate happy ending, so it’s easy to sell to the masses.  And it’s still marketable after all these millennia. After all, it’s been reworked in so many ways in so many themes in so many works of art, that even the godless heathen who don’t celebrate Easter can grok the basics. I mean, let’s face it: the passion play shows up in everything from E.T. to Tron (wait….not a huge range there…) So on this–the day we celebrate our Lord and Savior’s death and resurrection for our sins—it seems appropriate enough to look at the most recent take on Jesus Christ’s ultimate act of love for his children. I’m talking, of course, about Drive Angry.  True, not an actual retelling of the Christ story, but it features a dude with wild hair who comes back from the dead, and it was shot in 3D (not transferred in post), just like the New Testament.

So, you probably know the basics of the Easter story: After the Jews totally throw Jesus under the bus (and turn their attention toward bedeviling Mel Gibson), Jesus gets crucified for our sins by the Romans. He dies, and then three days later comes back to show his followers that those who believe in him will know life eternal. The Romans realize they’ve been duped and convert right quick. The Jews keep on starting every war that will ever happen. Well, Drive Angry: Shot in 3D (yes, that’s the title) tells roughly the same story. Only instead of Jesus, we have John Milton (Cage), who isn’t killed by either the Romans or the Jews, but by a murderous Satanic cult who also kills Milton’s daughter and kidnaps her infant to sacrifice to Satan. And just like Jesus, Cage comes back from the dead, only technically, he escapes from hell (but Jesus might have done that, too…the New Testament isn’t terribly clear on what went on those three days.)  Jesus came back to spread the Good News of the Word of God, and, similarly, Cage came back to rescue his infant granddaughter, kill the cult members, and take his revenge  on the cult leader (Billy Burke).

Now there’s some other stuff that doesn’t completely square with the Biblical telling of the story. Milton takes up with a down-on-her luck waitress (Amber Heard, whose naked legs are put on great display here and are, by my estimation, twenty miles long), after her life bottoms out. The New Testament pretty much portrays the resurrected Christ as a solo operator. Also, Milton is pursued out of the hell by a manhunter called The Accountant (William Fichtner, being awesome). The Accountant carves a swath of destruction as he chases down Milton, gleefully dispatching anyone who tries to stop him. If this is in the New Testament, the Jesuits never touched on it. And they probably would have—they really like that kind of stuff.

Anyway, there are a bunch of kick-ass action sequences, and shootouts, as Milton pursues the cult, and is in turn pursued by both The Accountant and a bunch of cops. Eventually he catches up with the cult on the night of the big sacrifice, where they’re having a grand ol’ time, shooting in the air, drinking cheap whiskey, and having an orgy that features a lot of fat, naked people. It’s like The Tea Party: After Dark.  The Accountant catches up with Milton and offers him a deal: he’ll allow Milton to take out the cult if Milton agrees to return to hell. He does, and he does.

But the similarities don’t end there. Let me run down a few for you:

* When Jesus reveals himself to his disciples, she shows them his crucifixion wounds. In similar fashion, when Milton gets shot in the face (an injury that can’t kill him, since he’s already dead), he meets an old buddy (David Morse), who removes the bullet from his eye-socket.

* Jesus was dead for three days. This is hella long, as Amber Heard informs us “Two days is like a decade in horny fucker years.” You know, in case you weren’t suitably impressed by his resurrection.

* Milton absconds from hell with a gun called “the Godkiller” because it totally destroys someone’s soul and doesn’t send it to either Heaven or hell. It has Latin phrases written on the bullets. Jesus probably did the same thing. I mean, he’d be pretty dumb not to, right?

* Jesus was looked after by both Mary Magdalene and his mother Mary. After his death, they came to his tomb, but when they pushed aside the rock, they found the tomb empty. Milton, in one scene, gets into a shootout with cult members while banging a waitress, swigging whiskey, and smoking a cigar all at the same time.

* Milton tells one of his sexual conquests, “I never disrobe before a gunfight.” Neither did Jesus.

* Waitresses hit on Milton constantly once he comes back from hell. Katy Mixon all but buries his face in her cleavage, explaining “It’s a full moon tonight, and the full moon always make really randy!” St. Paul says something similar in his letter to Corinthians (if I remember right).

* Jesus returned from the dead to spread the Good News of God’s love. Milton returns and explains that in hell there are constant video feeds that show you your loved ones’ suffering. Kind of a flip-side to the coin, there.

* The cult leader threatens Amber with “I’m going to kill you and defile your corpse!” The Romans killed Jesus, and…well, they didn’t do anything to his corpse. They were actually classier than white-trash cultists.

* The cult leader carries around Milton’s daughter’s femur. How different is that from a religious relic? Not very, especially if you beat someone down with it, like the cult leader does.

* After Milton kills the cult leader, he drinks a celebratory beer out of his skull. Just like Jesus did.

So there we have yet another take on the Easter tale. I gotta say, it’s a lot more fun than the “official” version, but as I’ve discussed earlier, the Catholic Church needs to spice it up when it comes to their storytelling. To that end, Drive Angry: Shot in 3D fills in some crucial narrative gaps. We learn, for example, that when you return from the dead, you will be irresistible to hot, white-trash waitresses. You will also be chased by William Fichtner, but he’s a lot of fun, so it’s okay.

Um…yeah, that’s all I got. Happy Easter!

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